Sometimes your community organisation may ask supporters to lobby on your behalf. You may encourage them, for example, to email a Member of National or Local Government, a certain business, or some other individual or organisation.
Such lobbying can be very effective, but it can also be hard to track — if you’re not collecting the emails and passing them on you have no way of verifying how many emails were sent, or what was written in them.
The recipient may claim no emails were received, or that the bulk of them favoured one point of view, and you cannot dispute their figures.
Tweak the strategy
Next time you ask supporters to send lobbying email direct to a third party also ask them to make sure they send a Cc copy to an address you specify. Set up a separate email address to collect only those emails.
Gmail counts the supporters
For example, suppose you’re asking supporters to lobby the local Council to vote Yes on something called ‘Proposition 999’. Set up a free Gmail address with an appropriate account name, such as Prop999@gmail.com. Then ask supporters to Cc their lobbying emails to that address (and not to use that address for any other purpose).
Keep the email address short, easy to use and relevant.
At regular intervals look at the emails going to that address. Check how many are received after various publicity ‘events’.
For example, if you speak on the radio about the campaign, how many emails arrive within 24 hours?
Do mark any junk as spam, which removes them from the In Box, but don’t delete any emails.
If you wish, you may label the emails — perhaps by date, or by issue, and archive them so it’s easier to see new emails that arrive.
A reliable record
By the end of the campaign a substantial archive should exist. Keep in mind it may not be complete — lobbyists may forget to Cc the special address, or some emails may go astray — but you will have a body of emails to refer to.
If the organisation being lobbied claims it received only 10 emails, but you have 100 that you can display, then you have more leverage for your cause.
More than email
Unfortunately many influential people and organisations still don’t pay as much attention to emails as they do to written letters, petitions, visits or phone calls. By all means use email as an element of your strategy, but remember to use other channels too.
But if you do use email, set up that purposely created email address and ask for copies!
Written by Miraz Jordan for, and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, March 2009. This article has been modified for publication here.